The first Smackdown Live of 2018 saw the continuation of the United States Championship Tournament, Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin get their shot at the Smackdown Tag Team Titles against The Usos, and WWE Champion AJ Styles goes one-on-one with Sami Zayn.
AJ Styles Opens Smackdown Live. Grade: B+ The WWE Champion fittingly opened up the first Smackdown of 2018. Eventually both Commissioner & General Manager made their way to the ring with Shane continuing to argue with and cut off Bryan. Shane came across as horrible here and sympathy continues to build for Bryan. The segment set up the main event well and continued the tension between Shane & Bryan.
The Usos defended the Smackdown Tag Team Championships against Chad Gable & Shelton Benjamin. Grade: B. Gable & Benjamin appeared to have won the titles only for the officials to go to the instant replay and see that they pinned the wrong Uso, allowing for the match to be restarted and the Uso’s to retain. Hopefully WWE can really play this into the storyline as it’s something that is rarely done and does feel fresh.
The Bludgeon Brothers vs Breezango. Grade: C. This was much the same as last week, the Bludgeon Brothers destroyed Breezango, the Ascension tried to make the save but also fell victim to the Bludgeon Brothers. Harper & Rowan do need to more on from this and onto a bigger team, or even straight to the tag team titles.
Xavier Woods defeated Aiden English in the First Round of the United States Championship Tournament. Grade: C+ English dominated most of the match but Woods came out on top winning with his diving top rope elbow. Woods continues to show just how good and underrated he is or has been in the ring. English & Rusev should be the biggest things in the company right now, so why are they losing like this ad Rusev hardly featured.
The Riott Squad defeated The Welcoming Committee. Grade: D. Why is the Welcoming Committee still a thing nearly a year on? Why is Tamina part of The Welcoming Committee when she was one of the new arrivals to Smackdown that they were indeed Welcoming? Why are the new heel trio The Riott Squad facing three heels? The only saving grace here was the return of Becky Lynch and the hometown girl Naomi as they along with Charlotte cleared house to stand tall.
Sami Zayn defeated AJ Styles. Grade: A. More storytelling gold here. With Shane McMahon, Kevin Owens & Daniel Bryan all at ringside, the match was bound to and ultimately ended in chaos with Owens distracting the ref, Owens getting ejected from ringside, Bryan asking Shane to leave ringside too, and then Owens causing a distraction allowing Zayn to hit the Helluva Kick for the win. Styles continues to be the frustrated brave babyface who is getting caught up in the drama between authority figures; Styles asked for a Handicap match against both Zayn & Owens to end the distractions, and Bryan allowed it, but at the Royal Rumble PPV, and for the WWE Championship. Storytelling perfection.